One of the things I love about Las Vegas is the wide variety of things to do there, aside from the casino floor (which can also definitely be fun). This series will share my recent trip with Travel Nevada, covering some of the fun activities that you can do in Nevada, all within a few hours (or less) from the Las Vegas Strip. This week begins with Red Rock Canyon and The Valley of Fire.
Red Rock Canyon
Less than 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to: Red Rock Canyon.
With its amazing colours and massive, surreal rock formations in the middle of the Mojave desert, Red Rock Canyon is a magnet for visitors looking to do all kinds of activities including hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and even horse back riding.
Classified as a National Conservation Area, there is a visitor centre that is a great starting point to learn more about the desert surroundings. For some place so hot, there is a surprising amount of life (wild and plant) all around the canyon…like this chuckwalla lizard:
The visitor centre has lots of outdoor exhibits and displays the explain everything you’ll see.
On this trip, we met with Doug from the American Alpine Institute to go rock climbing. This is something that I haven’t done for 20 years, and that was at an indoor gym. Most of us on the trip were a little worried about what we were getting ourselves into but as soon as we met Doug, he started to put us at ease. We were given helmets, harnesses and climbing shoes and headed out to the crag in the heart of the canyon.
Then Doug scurried up the rock face to setup the ropes for us.
In a manner of minutes he was back on the ground, giving us instruction on the basic techniques we’d be using as we climbed and belayed each other up the rock face. The total height we were climbing was 80 feet which doesn’t seem like much until you think about it as 8 stories up.
There was one spot, about a third of the way up, that was particularly difficult and the first few people climbing gave up on. Then the next climber made it up to the top and then it was my turn. No pressure.
I actually got stuck on the same spot and almost gave up a few times but Doug convinced me to keep trying each time. Eventually I made it to the top. I even stopped for a selfie:
While it was just a beginner climb (a 5.6 rating if you’re familiar), it was still a huge personal accomplishment to get over that spot and make it up and take in the amazing view. It will be hard to top this experience.
Valley of Fire
A little further away from Las Vegas is the famous Valley of Fire state park. Used as the backdrop for dozens of movies and just about every car commercial you’ve ever seen, the road winds through the valley in a 20 mile loop with many lookouts and hiking spots.
Like Red Rocks, the Valley of Fire is something you just have to see in person to appreciate with the hoodoos that greet you upon entering and the multicolor rock formations (caused by varying levels of iron) throughout the park that seem like a painted backdrop in a road runner cartoon.
It can be hard to get a sense of scale without some people in the shot to give you idea of the big open spaces here.
Fans of Star Trek movies flock to the park to see where the final showdown between Kirk and Soran on Viridian 3 in Star Trek Generations which took place on this formation:
There are many petroglyphs easily visible from the trails as well as many wind eroded rock formations throughout the park.
We only had a few hours to tour the valley but plan to spend a full morning there if you can as there is lots to see. It gets blazing hot in the afternoon so if you do make the trek, bring lots of water and sun protection!